NEW YORK - Workplace design plays a pivotal role in overall business performance by supporting the new work modes of a knowledge economy, according to a nationwide study of office workers recently released by Gensler, a leading global design and consulting firm.
The Gensler 2008 U.S. Workplace Survey reveals that top-performing companies are embracing a fundamental restructuring of work through workplace design that places as much emphasis on collaboration, learning and socialization as on individual "heads-down" work. Companies providing workplaces that are more effective for knowledge work are seeing higher levels of employee engagement, brand equity, and profit, with profit growth up to 14 percentage points greater than those with less effective work environments.
Leveraging Workplace Design to Meet Economic Challenge "As cost control becomes an even greater business priority over the next several years, office space reductions will be a common cost-cutting strategy," says Diane Hoskins, executive director at Gensler. "However, companies risk creating inefficiencies if they simply shrink space and continue with the same workplace paradigm. Our research indicates that if organizations provide work settings that support today's dynamic ways of working, they can reduce real estate and improve their company's performance at the same time—they can do more with less."
The Gensler survey makes evident that improving business performance via workplace improvements depends on the quality of space functionality and effectiveness, not quantity of space. Specifically, designing a workplace to support the right proportion of four knowledge work modes—focus, collaboration, learning, and socializing—is a key differentiator between top-performing companies and average companies. Top-performing companies are those identified by survey respondents as the most profitable, admired, and leading in their industries.
Gensler's research reveals that 36 percent of the average office is ineffective or ill-suited for the activities of today's knowledge workforce. In fact, employees believe that they could increase the quality and quantity of their work by an average of 25 percent by improving workplace areas to better support all four modes of work.
The Knowledge Workplace
The Gensler survey indicates that top-performing companies consider all work modes more important than average companies, spend more time in those work modes, and provide workplaces that support those modes more effectively. For example, people at top-ranked companies consider collaboration twice as critical to job success as average companies (43 percent versus 21 percent) and spend 23 percent more time collaborating than average companies (36 percent versus 29 percent). Socializing was almost three times as critical to employees at top-performing companies who spend 16 percent more time in that work mode (20 percent versus 7 percent).
"The value of focus work is commonly understood, but there's clearly a competitive advantage for companies who see how collaborating, socializing and learning add value to employee and business performance. For example, socializing plays a critical role in fostering social networks, the infrastructure that moves knowledge through an organization to create innovation," explains Hoskins.
The ROI of Workplace Design
Gensler's survey not only measured what people spend their time doing, but where they do it in the office and how effectively work spaces support them, creating a workplace efficiency rating for all survey respondents. According to this measure, top companies design workplaces that are 80 percent effective, and average companies only achieve 64 percent efficiency. Drilling down to workplace effectiveness for specific work modes, 86 percent of top-performing companies ranked their spaces effective for collaboration versus 72 percent at average companies and up to 14 percentage points higher for focus, learning, and socializing.
The survey also found that companies with higher performing workplaces have higher revenue and profit growth than companies with low to moderate workplace effectiveness. At the high end of workplace effectiveness (91 percent to 100 percent), three-year average profit growth is 28.2 percent. At the low end of workplace effectiveness (zero to 40 percent), three-year average profit growth is 14.4 percent, 14 percentage points lower.
With research by the Gallup Organization pointing to higher performance, profitability and tenure from more engaged employees, Gensler's survey mapped two measures of employee engagement—workplace and job satisfaction—to understand how the workplace contributes to organizational success. Notably, 82 percent of top company respondents reported that they were satisfied/highly satisfied with their workplace; only 43 percent of average companies land in the same range. Respondents who rated their workplaces more effective had higher levels of job satisfaction, with those in the highly effective range (91 percent to 100 percent) reporting three times the job satisfaction as those in the zero to 40 percent effective range.
Higher workplace effectiveness is a strong factor in attraction and retention of talented people; ratings of a company's attraction/retention capability are almost three times higher when workplace effectiveness rises above 80 percent. "Businesses are viewing potential and existing talent as internal customers, and the workplace is a key part of the employment package that brings them in and keeps them working at their best for a company," adds Hoskins.
Gensler commissioned Added Value, a WPP company, to conduct an online survey with a random sample of 900 participants with equal distribution across the continental United States. Respondents were full-time, in-office workers, defined as workers who spend most of their time working at their primary, assigned location. All staff levels were represented, from Administration, Staff, Manager, Partner/Vice-President, and C-Suite. A spectrum of industries were represented, including banking, finance, insurance, technology, internet, telecom, consumer products, retail, legal, accounting, consulting, energy, media, creative, entertainment, and not-for-profit associations. The methodology aligns with Gensler's ongoing Workplace Performance Index (WPI) research, which measures workplace effectiveness for corporations. The Gensler Workplace Survey program began in 2005 and includes surveys in the U.K. For a survey report or tips on workplace design in an economic downturn, visit www.gensler.com.
Gensler is a global design, planning, and strategic consulting firm, with more than 3,000 professionals networked across 31 offices on five continents. Consistently ranked by U.S. and international industry surveys as the leading architecture and interior design firm, Gensler leverages its deep resources and diverse expertise to develop design solutions for industries across the globe. Since 1965, Gensler has collaborated with clients to create environments that enhance organizational performance, achieve measurable business goals, enrich people and communities, and enhance everyday experiences.